Don’t give up hope – Help is out there
Suicide is a national public health issue, with more than 45,000 Americans dying by suicide each year, and rates increasing among people ages 25–75. In 2020, suicide was the 13th leading cause of death among Veterans overall, and it was the second leading cause of death among Veterans under age 45.
Tragically, according to the Veteran Affairs Office, we lose nearly 20 veterans each day to suicide. Wyoming alone saw a loss of 37 total Veteran deaths by suicide in 2020. For a look at the Wyoming Veteran Suicide Data Sheet for 2020, click here.
The causes of suicide are complex, with many personal, socio-demographic, medical, and economic factors playing a role. One potential risk factor is occupation and several occupations appear to be at higher risk for suicide, including first responders. First responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians, and public safety telecommunicators, are crucial to ensuring public safety and health. First responders may be at elevated risk for suicide because of the environments they work in, their culture, and additional stressors that they face at home and work.
Like Veterans, first responders may be subject to life-altering trauma on a daily basis. Many first responders and Veterans have PTSD because of this. PTSD does not always cause suicide or suicidal ideation but in some cases, it can. The important thing to remember is that PTSD and other mental health issues that lead to suicide can be treated.
Read other stories of hope and recovery here.
Never give up hope! There are several hopeful data points from the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report:
- There were 343 fewer Veterans who died from suicide in 2020 than in 2019, and 2020 had the lowest number of Veteran suicides since 2006.
- From 2001 through 2018, the number of Veteran suicides increased on average by 47 deaths per year. From 2019 to 2020, there were consecutive reductions, of 307 and 343 suicides, respectively, an unprecedented decrease since 2001.
- Despite the 24.6% decrease in the Veteran population from 2001 to 2020, the number of Veterans with VHA healthcare encounters in the year or prior year rose 55.0%, from 3.8 million to 5.9 million.
- The age-adjusted suicide rate for women Veterans in 2020 was the lowest since 2013, and the age-adjusted suicide rate for Veteran men was the lowest since 2016.
How can you help? It really is simple. Help strengthen our community and your loved ones by finding ways to embrace healthy activities and resources in our community. We encourage everyone to take a minute and look at the Sources of Strength website and see what strengths they have in their life.
Ask and listen. Be an active part of your loved ones’ support systems and check in with them often. If they show any warning signs of suicide, be direct. Tell them it’s OK to talk about suicidal feelings. Practice active listening techniques and let them talk without judgment.
Get them help and take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to get your loved ones the help they might need. The Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line are always here to talk or chat. They are both available for crisis intervention and to support friends and loved ones.
Be there. Everyone deals with pain differently. A simple act of kindness to the veteran or service member in your life can help that person feel less alone.
Remember, suicide does not discriminate; it is a leading cause of death among all Americans, not just Veterans and First Responders.
For updated Fremont County and Wyoming resources, click here.
Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis should contact the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential crisis intervention and support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 988 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Source: https://988lifeline.org/help-yourself/veterans/, https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2021/04/06/suicides-first-responders/, https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/docs/safe_messaging_best_practices.pdf, https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/data.asp